Kampfner: more humour in new-look New Statesman

By Alyson Fixter New Statesman editor John Kampfner is planning a major redesign at the left-leaning weekly, saying the magazine’s look must change if it is to meet his ambitious plans to extend the reach of the title.

Putting the recent success of political opposition The Spectator in his sights, Kampfner said he was determined to improve newsstand visibility, raise the magazine’s profile and break through an “old-fashioned” stereotype of left-wing magazines as lacking in humour.

Following Martin Bright’s controversial exclusive on “extraordinary rendition”

of terrorism suspects, and the addition of new commentators to the roster, Kampfner said: “I believe people appreciate the stories we’re breaking and the questions we’re asking – and the design should now fit in with the journalism, not the other way round.

“It’s got to the point now where people are calling us on a Wednesday afternoon and saying ‘What have you got?’, which is very, very nice.

“The magazine was always a lot more humorous and interesting than people perceived it to be, and we need to make a lot more noise so we encourage people who normally wouldn’t to pick it up and try it.”

Kampfner took over as editor of the magazine last May, whose circulation has been falling slowly since 2003. He retained previous editor Peter Wilby as a media columnist.

He told Press Gazette a team of in-house and outside designers would produce new typefaces, cover and masthead over the coming months. The magazine has already changed its press times to allow more copies of the title to hit newsstands on Thursday. Kampfner said his goal was for the magazine to be displayed on newsagents’ counters.

“On the day I took over as editor, my wife went into a newsagent on Westbourne Grove, where you might expect to see plenty of newspaper editors popping in,” he said.

“In no particular order, she saw Private Eye, The Economist, The Spectator and Time Out laid out on the counter.

“She said she’d like a copy of the New Statesman and the newsagent said: ‘On the bottom shelf on the left.’ She rang me and said: ‘That’s your challenge.’

“There’s also this misconception that you can’t be left-wing and have a sense of humour. It’s just not true – Rory Bremner’s column, which is going from strength to strength, is an example of how you can be passionate and funny about an issue.”

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